It might sound cliche, but it's good to have an open heart. What does this mean though and why is it good? From the perspective of the chakra system, the heart is the place where we love.
Simply put, when your heart center is open, you are more open to experiencing, giving, receiving, and enjoying love with others (as well as being more loving towards yourself).
When your heart is closed, you're more closed off from experiencing love.
Can doing yoga poses help us experience more love? Yes!
Our bodies and minds are connected, and putting your body into a more open and loving shape, can make your mind more loving and open.
Think about how someone who is defeated, sad, and heartbroken carries themselves. It's usually a more hunched forward position and closed in the chest. Now think of someone who is bright and confident. Their posture is usually tall, proud, and open, specifically around the ara of their chest. This is an example of the connection between our emotions and our bodies.
Fortunately, backbends are a whole family of yoga poses that aim at opening the heart to make us more receptive and giving of love. Some are more beginner-friendly and accessible than others, and all have slightly different energetic and physical benefits, but all can transform the space around your heart from more closed to more open.
While many yoga poses share many physical and energetic qualities, no two are the same. Each has unqiue properties in how they benefit your body and how they make you feel.
Here are 6 yoga poses to open your heart space and why each of these shapes is a powerful force for experiencing more love both on and off your mat.
Sphinx is a beginner-friendly posture that not only opens your heart, but is also helpful in drawing back slouched forward shoulders, which is all too common in modern life and also associated with a lack of confidence.
If you're newer to yoga and want to try Sphinx, here's how to do it. Lie down on your stomach with the tops of your feet on the ground. Then place your elbows underneath your shoulders and your palms forward, face down. Press your toes and tailbone into the mat, and lift your head and chest up, and breathe into the front center of your chest. Hold for several breaths.
This pose can really crack the heart right open. It's important when performing Camel (Ustrasana), to keep your tailbone drawing down, or this can quickly become a kind of unsafe opening of the heart, where you're bound to get hurt (which Dancer's pose is a perfect antidote for).
While this pose opens your heart more than most of the others on this list, the nature of this shape makes it possible to go further than you're ready for, so patience is key. This is physically speaking, but you can see the symbolism here, for opening your heart off the mat as well. Be sure to breathe, listen to your body, and don't overdo it. Move into Ustrasana with some sense of caution, and you'll feel the exhilarating rush that results from opening your heart into this pose.
Bridge is not only amazing for opening the heart, but also for helping heal any lower back pain (when done correctly). This is the perfect pose if you're just beginning to open your heart and body into this direction again, perhaps after an injury or heartache. Your feet keep you grounded and the nature of the shape allows it to be a slow and steady opening, rather than a sudden jolt, which can be experienced in other backbends, like Camel or Wheel. This posture also lengthens your neck and creates a sense of groundedness and length in your spine.
This posture embodies balanced love. Not the kind of blind, foolish love, but more of a grounded, steady, love with your feet on the ground and a direct aim at where you're headed, no matter who or what life may place in your path. This elegant, yet profound posture opens your heart, helps you cultivate gracefulness, and uplifts everything.
You kick back, to move forward in Dancer's pose. Iyengar says this beautiful pose requires equal parts of poise and elegance.
Wheel pose is the creme de la creme of backbends. This pose is potent in opening your heart and the entire front side of your body. It's a posture that takes years to get into comfortably for some, and even more to master, but is worth the wait. It's effective in opening your shoulders, notably improving posture, and most importantly, blasting your heart open and letting all of those good feelings of love in.
Heart-Opener Laying on Blocks
This pose is simple, yet potent. Laying down on blocks for several breaths (or several minutes) and relaxing completely, can help open everything. This is perfect for beginners and advanced yogis alike. Different to some of the others on this list, this more restorative pose, is about surrendering, and not about the effort at all. Different heights of blocks and bolsters make it possible to fine-tune this pose to work for you, depending on where you're at on a given day. If you go too high on the block under your shoulders, you might not be able to relax, so take it easy and you can always add intensity later. The purpose of this one is to allow things to unfold.
If you're feeling stuck, closed off, or disconnected in your relationship with yourself, or with people in your world, practice more backbends. Be okay with where you're at, as you can see from this list, there are many options here to suit your body's needs. Be open to how these shapes not only help open your body but also make you a more open and loving individual off of your mat.
By Keith Allen